Republicans Blame Us for Violent Crime—While Blocking Our Efforts to Fight It | Opinion

America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic that is driving an increase in violent crime. Horrific acts of violence have permeated every part of our daily lives. We can't go to a concert, a nightclub, a mall, the gym, to schools, celebrate the 4th of July or Pride without fear of a shooting. And as soon as we begin to come to grips with one shooting, another happens.

We are four Democratic mayors in red and purple states and we can tell you that contrary to the narrative on the Right, gun violence is not confined to liberal states on America's coasts; it is a national epidemic that requires immediate, national action. While mass shootings capture the headlines and flood our phones with push alerts, as mayors, we know those are only a small fraction of the acts of gun violence that shatter our communities every day. We have attended the funerals and heard the stories of families destroyed because the wrong person had access to a deadly firearm.

As mayors, we are on the front lines of fighting back against violent crime. And as Democratic mayors, we are the driving force behind directing resources to support proven violence prevention programs and law enforcement. This includes activating community-based interventions, gun buy-backs, jobs and outreach programs for at-risk youth. We have also used American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds funds to support police departments in hiring, retaining, and training officers, creating programs to address domestic violence and forge technological upgrades to ensure police safety.

gun violence
Friends of 25-year-old Rubin Austin sign a memorial placed on the spot where Austin was found dying from a gunshot wound early in the morning in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the city's Westside. Scott Olson/Getty Images

But even with these smart interventions and investments, many of us are facing uphill battles, thanks to the very people who like to blame Democratic mayors for violence.

Our state Republican governors and legislators are tying our hands as we attempt to curb gun violence and keep our cities safe—even while they blame us for crimes in our communities. They are doing this by repealing life-saving gun safety laws and actively passing legislation that puts communities and officers in danger by flooding our streets with guns.

Last year, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to prohibit police and sheriffs from enforcing federal gun laws. Texas Governor Greg Abbott helped pass pro-gun legislation like open carry, campus carry and permit- and training-less carry. As a result, both the numbers of murders and the percentages of homicides committed with guns increased. Of the 1,187 murders in 2014, 63.3 percent were committed by the use of firearms. By 2020, that increased to 80.6 percent. Texans felt the impact of the gun crisis when 19 children recently lost their lives in Uvalde.

In March, Ohio's Republican-controlled Statehouse rolled back gun laws when he signed a bill allowing all Ohioans aged 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, training, or background check. Gun deaths in Ohio were already on the rise, with deaths from firearms in 2021 at an all time high. The impacts are already being felt. Due to the state's new permitless carry law, law enforcement in Youngstown had to recently release 10 people without charge whom they could have charged with a gun crime before the law took effect.

And it isn't just Democratic mayors who our Republican governors are ignoring; it's law enforcement. Common sense gun laws are supported by law enforcement as well, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Fraternal Order of Police. Law enforcement have publicly opposed Republican-led gun bills in at least seven states, including bills allowing permitless carry, local enforcement of federal gun laws, and sanctuary bills.

We're not giving up. Study after study has found that community-driven gun violence intervention programs can be effective, and we are deploying them in our cities to try and prevent violence before it even occurs.

In Houston, the mayor and city council are investing $53 million in the One Safe Houston program to develop new technology to find leads in gun violence cases, seize ghost guns, and target offenders repeatedly committing firearm-related crimes in addition to police overtime. In Tucson, general fund dollars are being deployed to launch an innovative Community Safety, Health and Wellness Program, and $13.3 million in ARPA funds are designated to support Community Partner Grants in this area.

In Cleveland, the Division of Police, using the Patrol Section, the Bureau of Traffic, and the Gang Impact Unit, conducted Operation S.T.O.P. to thwart planned street takeovers using actionable information regarding illegal street riding to keep streets safe. The program resulted in the confiscation of illegal firearms. On the east coast, Richmond, VA developed a framework that brings together community-based programs targeted at the city's most at-risk youth, their families and communities in an effort to reduce gun violence.

By utilizing violence prevention programs and holistic solutions, we can help mitigate crime. But that will never be enough. The true driver of violent crime is still out there, and despite Uvalde, Highland Park, and the tragic shootings we see each week in our communities, the Republican leaders of our states are trying to make guns even more accessible.

By weakening our gun laws, Republican state leaders are exacerbating the gun violence epidemic, making our communities less safe, and instilling paralyzing fear in the process.

Mayors are stepping up to fight back and take action. But we need our counterparts to stop making things worse.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mayor Regina Romero, Mayor Justin Bibb, and Mayor Levar Stoney are the Democratic mayors of Houston, Tucson, Cleveland, and Richmond. This week, they are participating in "Mayors Stopping Crime: A Week of Action," a nationwide effort where mayors are showcasing their initiatives to stop violent crime and calling for gun violence prevention reforms.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.